Facts are beginning to emerge on the shocking judgment of the Supreme Court which sacked erstwhile Imo State Governor; Emeka Ihedioha from office.
Indeed, the Supreme Court had in a unanimous judgment on Tuesday sacked Ihedioha as Governor of Imo State. Further, it had declared Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress (APC) winner of the election. In addition, the apex court ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue Uzodinma certificate of return.
However, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Kenneth Ikonne, has detailed how a fatal slip by Ihedioha’s counsel; had resulted in the unseating of the former Speaker of the House of Representatives as Imo State Governor.
Ihedioha was represented by the lead counsel, Onyechi Ikpeazu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). On the other hand, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was represented by Kaham Ejelam
Ikonne who disclosed that Uzodinma may not have won the 2019 Imo State gubernatorial election; noted that the Supreme Court was right in declaring him the winner of that election in law; based on the facts.
‘‘The error was not the Supreme Court’s, but that of Governor Emeka Ihedioha’s legal team; and it was a crucially fatal error,’’ Ikonne disclosed.
Shedding more light, the SAN stated: ‘‘What happened was this: during the governorship election in Imo State, apparently concocted results; perhaps not having any basis whatsoever in reality, BUT SIGNED BY INEC PRESIDING OFFICERS; were turned in from more than 350 polling units, giving Hope Uzodinma of the APC an incredibly unassailable lead.
Counsel to Ihedioha failed to read the writing on the wall
‘‘When those results were transmitted to the wards collation centres, the collation officers; who had no power in law to cancel or reject them, rejected the said polling units results; and refused to collate them, thereby effectively excluding them from the total tally of the governorship result that was eventually declared by the Returning Officer.
‘‘In the aftermath of the said exclusion, the Independent National Electoral Commission declared Governor Ihedioha the winner of the election.’’
Further, Ikonne disclosed that this action proved to be the undoing of Ihedioha. He affirmed that his legal counsel failed to read the writing on the wall and file a cross petition; one which would have challenged the integrity of the dubious voted and invalidated them.
‘‘The exclusion of the results of those polling units was the fulcrum of the petition presented at the Tribunal by Hope Uzodinma. Ever since David Mark V. ABUBAKAR USMAN, and DOMA V. INEC; the law has been settled that neither collation officers nor a returning officer; has the power in law to exclude a polling unit result duly signed by the presiding officer at the polling unit; only the election tribunal possesses the power to cancel or exclude such a result.
‘‘So, at the point of its presentation, Senator Uzodinma’s petition was potentially viable; in spite of the apparent dubiousness of the polling units results on which it was anchored…
‘‘The backbreaking and fatal error made by Ihedioha’s legal team was in not filing a CROSS PETITION; fiercely challenging the integrity of the suspect polling units results upon which Uzodinma was relying; and praying the election tribunal to formally nullify the said results.
Same principle invoked by Appeal Court in presidential tussle between Atiku, Buhari
‘‘Without a cross petition, none of the grounds under section 138 (1) of the Electoral Act for questioning the elections conducted in those polling units in which Uzodinma “won” could have been competently raised by Governor Ihedioha in his defence to Uzodinma’s petition.’’
As a matter of fact, the SAN revealed that the Court of Appeal recently invoked the principle; in the legal tussle over the Presidency between Atiku Abubakar and Muhammadu Buhari.
‘‘In the recent Court of Appeal decision in ATIKU ABUBAKAR V. BUHARI, the Court of Appeal again invoked the principle in dismissing Buhari’s contention that Atiku ABUBAKAR was born in Cameroun to parents who originally were Camerounians, and thus disqualified from contesting the election. Dismissing the contention, the Court of Appeal held that the issue was incompetent, since Buhari did not file a cross petition.
‘‘…Since the issue nominated for trial by Hope Uzodinma was the unlawfulness or otherwise; of the exclusion of the results of the 300 plus polling units by the ward collation officers; Ihedioha’s defence was therefore necessarily restricted by law to showing that those who excluded the results had the power in law to exclude them.
Without a cross petition praying for the nullification of those results; the law forbade Governor Ihedioha as respondent from raising the issue of the alleged serial corrupt practices and irregularities marring the said results, in a mere statement of defence; that was a new issue not nominated by Uzodinma as petitioner.
‘‘Ihedioha, being a Respondent, could only have competently raised them via a cross petition; being a new issue not nominated by Uzodinma, the petitioner.’’
Supreme Court right in unseating Ihedioha, says Ikonne
Consequently, Ikonne averred that the Supreme Court was right in declaring Uzodinma the rightful winner of the election.
‘‘Tragically, Ihedioha’s legal team forgot to include the pivotal cross petition. And in the absence of a cross petition, the Supreme Court was right in law, painfully though it may seem; to rely on the presumption of regularity and correctness enshrined by both the Electoral Act and Evidence Act in favour of the said results, and to reckon with them and add them up to the final result, since Ihedioha’s legal team had woefully failed to effectively attack the results and rebut that presumption.
‘‘For the Supreme Court, this was the legally correct conclusion to come to; having found that INEC had no power in law to exclude polling units results duly affirmed by the various polling units presiding officers!’’ he concluded.
1st News had reported how Supreme Court faulted Court of Appeal, Tribunal in Imo election case
Indeed, 1st News had reported that the decision of the Supreme Court which sacked Ihedioha from office; came as a result of a major point overlooked by the Imo State Election Petition Tribunal; as well as the Court of Appeal.
The Supreme Court ruled that the Appeal Court erred in law when it rejected evidence tendered before them; to the extent that votes from 388 polling units were not credited to the APC and Uzodinma.
Kekere-Ekun said with the result from the 388 polling units; the APC governorship candidate polled majority lawful vote and ought to have been declared winner of the election by INEC.
The judgment set aside the judgment of the Imo Election Petition Tribunal and that of the Court of Appeal; both of which had refused to recognise and accept the votes of the 388 polling units; as being unlawfully excluded in the general collation.